Let the Games Begin

Sept. 3, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Keenan Davis wants to see a lot of wet feet in the locker room after the University of Iowa plays Tennessee Tech today in a season-opening football game for both teams. Likewise, C.J. Fiedorowicz wants to stock up on quality game-time experience.

So goes the thinking on these first games, which teeter between doing what it takes for victory and doing what it takes to get the young student-athletes acclimated to a big-time college football atmosphere. The Hawkeyes have feasted on ‘Ws’ during season-openers under head coach Kirk Ferentz, winning their last 10. The lone nail-biter was a 17-16 decision against instate Northern Iowa in 2009; a season that ended with 11 wins and an Orange Bowl victory.

“It’s game week, and it’s finally a true test to see where we’re at,” said UI starting quarterback James Vandenberg. “It’s a chance to play against other guys for the first time, so it’s something everybody’s looking forward to, and I think everybody’s ready to go.”

Vandenberg, a junior, is in a unique position. He is in a leadership role, he is in his fourth year in the program, but he has played in just seven career games. Vandenberg was 3-for-3 for 27 yards in last season’s season-opening 37-7 win against Eastern Illinois.

“It’s game week, and it’s finally a true test to see where we’re at. It’s a chance to play against other guys for the first time, so it’s something everybody’s looking forward to, and I think everybody’s ready to go.”
UI junior James Vandenberg

“It takes me back to when I had those two weeks a couple years ago,” said Vandenberg, referring to starts against Ohio State and Minnesota in 2009. “It’s something I’m kind of familiar with, and I’m happy to be back in the situation.”

Junior running back Jason White had his lone career carry (for 14 yards) in last season’s opener against Eastern Illinois. That was a mop-up role with five plays left in the game; White is listed as the backup behind Marcus Coker against Tennessee Tech.

“You go into the games with an open mind,” White said. “You put the team before yourself and give back any way you can to your team in areas where you’re called upon.”

White is using the first game of 2011 to gauge individual and team improvement.

Also today, Davis is looking for his first catch on opening day, and Fiedorowicz is looking for his first catch, period.

“I would like to see a lot of people get in and play and a lot of young guys at receiver get in and get a couple of touches or get on the field and throw a block and just see how it feels,” Davis said. “There are a lot of young people on the team, and I want to see them grow up during that first game.”

“I’m good, I’m healthy and I’m ready to go this week,” Fiedorowicz said. “I did a lot of learning last year, and I think it was the right decision for me to get reps on special teams. Now it’s about time to step up. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. I haven’t been in a lot of big games yet, so just to get the experience in the game is going to be big for me.”

With 88 career pass receptions, Marvin McNutt, Jr., is no stranger to the spotlight. McNutt had five catches for 48 yards in 2009 against Northern Iowa and two grabs for 18 yards last season against Eastern Illinois. This is the beginning of his final season, but McNutt isn’t in a reflective mood…yet.

“Right now it’s all about getting out there, getting back on the gridiron and playing football,” McNutt said.

His goal for today’s game?

“I would like to see everyone come out and play as hard as they can,” McNutt said. “One thing you want to see is for this team to improve from camp. If we’ve done that, we’re making strides and taking the right steps.”

This is the 13th opener for Ferentz, who is searching for his 90th victory as the head Hawkeye.

“We have some experienced players that we’re counting on to play very well,” Ferentz said. “And I think we’re all excited to see what happens with some of the newcomers — the guys that we haven’t seen play or play significant amount of time.”

It all starts at 11 a.m. (CT).

2010 Eastern Illinois W, 37-7
2009 Northern Iowa W, 17-16
2008 Maine W, 46-3
2007 Northern Illinois W, 16-3
2006 Montana W, 41-7
2005 Ball State W, 56-0
2004 Kent State W, 39-7
2003 Miami (Ohio) W, 21-3
2002 Akron W, 57-21
2001 Kent State W, 51-0
2000 Kansas State L, 7-27
1999 Nebraska L, 7-42